We recently took a trip to our Nation’s capital, staying at a pleasant Quaker hostel (“Does thee have a reservation?”) a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court.
The first thing we noticed on the D.C. Mall was the fleets of people zipping around on rented scooters. Scooters on the sidewalk are, of course, a terrible blight and a menace to public safety. Naturally, we wanted one too.
But renting a scooter required a working cell phone and ours was out of commission from falling into the Reflecting Pool.
The way our phone got into the Reflecting Pool was that it was in our backpack when, as we were taking a nighttime stroll towards the Washington Monument, we stepped onto what looked like a dark patch of pavement and found ourselves waist deep in dank water. Luckily there was nobody around although we thought we heard snickering from the surveillance cameras. Also luckily, it was 98 degrees outside, so we were dry by the time we got back to the hostel and nobody asked, “What happened to thou?”
But we never stop thinking about our cases, which at the moment involve several appeals from subway masher convictions. So we were fascinated to see how the D.C. Metro deals with the issue. Unlike the NYC subways that indulge in unnecessary moralizing (“A crowded train is no excuse for unlawful sexual conduct”), D.C. has STOP: Sidetrack, Tell, Observe and Postpone.
Under “Sidetrack,” riders are urged to distract harassers by asking them, “Do you know how to get to L’Enfant Plaza?” If you’re already at L’Enfant Plaza, you should say, “I haven’t seen you in forever! Want to come sit with me?”
The “Postpone” method focuses on the victim. You should ask them, “Are you okay? OR Would you like me to ride with you to the next stop?'”
Well, that’s one way to meet people.
And why limit this friendly approach only to subway mashers? Next time you see a robbery, go up to the robber and ask how to get to L’Enfant Plaza. And if he answers, “What the #&*^@ are you talking about?” add, “I haven’t seen you in forever! Want to come sit with me?”